Costa Rica is an incredible vacation destination with many relaxing and adventurous activities to take part in. From bird watching and white water rafting, to zip-lining and scuba diving, there’s never a dull moment in this country. However, when I travel it’s always the unique moments that are the most memorable and in Costa Rica that moment was definitely attending a cheese making workshop at a local farm near Chirripo Mountain. Our wonderful hotel, Monte Azul, specialized in creating delicious gourmet experiences and organized the entire excursion from start to finish.
The man who ran our workshop used to own a small cow farm in the mountains that was used primarily for milk. But when a man from Switzerland came offering to teach locals how to make Swiss cheese, he decided to try his hand at it. The instructor told us that the first day many people came to the class to learn from the Swiss man, however no one liked the taste of the cheese and no one came back the second day. Because the farmer was hosting the man at his home, he had no choice but to continue! Fortunately, as time went on the farmer began to enjoy the cheese more and more, and even found a nice market in Costa Rica for ex-pats who love Swiss cheese. Now he has a successful business selling his product to local restaurants and ex-pats in the area. Watching the entire cheese making process was amazing. From milking the cows, to stirring the milk, to pressing the curds and finally seeing the different stages of aging the cheese, the entire workshop was fascinating. I think my favorite part (other than tasting the cheese, of course) was seeing the cute, fuzzy baby cows!
The farm where our workshop was hosted had been in the instructor’s family for three generations and was an entirely organic operation. The farmer mentioned that he learned through trial and error many years ago that natural resources have kept the land far healthier than any chemicals ever could. He uses worms to create a natural thriving soil as well as fertilizer made from cow dung to grow the grass that his cows will eventually eat. This creates a completely self-sustaining cycle. He also built a cement cold room that naturally stays the right temperature for the cheese to age. We had the opportunity to try three different ages of cheese, which tasted dramatically different even just three or four months apart. He will also put in some herbs to some of the cheeses for select clients, which was one of my favorite tastes of the day!
San Isidro de El General, Costa Rica
Rebecca Yale is a documentary and portrait photographer living in New York City. She loves to travel the world photographing causes she is passionate about like conservation and child protection.